Friday, March 23, 2012

Democrats see defections on education reform

A great article about DFER's Lisa McFarlane and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer are shaking up the Democratic Party and its blind obedience to the teachers' union in Washington state:


Lisa MacFarlane used to be a reliable ally for Washington's Democratic Party leaders.

Now she's part of a growing band of rebels — including one of the Democrats' biggest donors from the business world — questioning the party line on education reform.

These critics say 2012 could be the year that public opinion has shifted enough to change course on schools. They argue Democratic lawmakers have deprived Washington children of needed innovations such as charter schools and teacher promotions tied to performance.

"Most Democrats get their education marching orders from the teachers' union," said MacFarlane, head of the new Washington chapter of Democrats for Education Reform."You see not a lot of reform conversations coming out of the party."

…MacFarlane, head of the new Washington chapter of Democrats for Education Reform, partly blames her own party for Washington state's resistance to change.

"It's been obvious for a long time that we don't have a very robust conversation going on in the Democratic Party in this state on education reform," MacFarlane said. "We're pretty behind in terms of the rest of the country. There's a lot of ways to measure that, but (one is) certainly our performance in the Race to the Top education competition."

…Hanauer, the technology investor, has become an unofficial spokesman for Democratic voters fed up with what they see as the party's resistance to reform.

"I'm not doing polling, but I'm talking to my friends, and I can tell you that they're pissed and fed up and they're tired of no progress," said Hanauer. "These are people who are sending their kids to public schools, and they see the weaknesses and the problems. And they see their party standing in the way of that progress."

… "Education is my No. 1 issue," he said. "In the state, I think it's the most important issue and on balance, I'm going to support politicians who support the policies that I believe in, irrespective of party."

…MacFarlane typifies someone who once would have been an automatic Inslee vote. As director of the lobbying group League of Education Voters, she fought charter schools measures in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

Then she decided to visit charter schools in other states. And something unusual happened: MacFarlane changed her mind about one of the state's most polarizing education issues.

"The first time I set foot in a charter school — it is transformative when you see the population of kids they are serving," said MacFarlane. "It's all poor kids, and they're Hispanic or African American, and it's amazing."


Democrats see defections on education reform

Premium content from Puget Sound Business Journal by Valerie Bauman, Staff Writer

Date: Friday, March 16, 2012, 3:00am PDT




Nick Hanauer, entrepreneur and high-profile Democratic donor, says he'll consider supporting Republican candidates this fall over education issues.

Valerie Bauman

Staff Writer - Puget Sound Business Journal

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